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On ‘Palentine’s Day,’ students with disabilities find fun and community

Students visited the Disability Cultural Center at Sacramento State on Wednesday, Feb. 14, for “Palentine’s Day,” which celebrates diversity, friendship and acceptance in a space that helps everyone to feel welcomed and loved. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

Valentine’s Day can be a downer for some college students, especially those who feel isolated because of physical, mental or emotional disabilities.

Valentine's Day style cookies with heart shapes for students on Palentine's Day.
As part of Palentine's Day at the Sac State Disability Cultural Center, students were treated to snacks, including cookies with pink and red hearts. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

But at Sac State’s Disability Cultural Center, everyone felt welcomed and loved. It was “Palentine’s Day,” a time to celebrate diversity, friendship and acceptance.

“In this space, we’re all dealing with something,” said Yolanda Vargas, a Communication Studies student who uses a wheelchair. “We know that some of us might be very blunt, or miss social cues. But it doesn’t matter. We welcome everyone.”

Throughout the day, students who popped into the center were greeted with hearty welcomes and snacks, including cookies in the shape of pink and red hearts. Some lounged in a common area, chatting and sharing photos of pet cats and dogs on their smartphones. Icebreaker questions like “Who is your hero, and why?” and “What’s your ideal dream job?” helped launch conversations.

Steven Murphy, an older student who said his anxiety sometimes makes it difficult to connect with others, welcomed the chance to “be around people who understand disability,” especially on Valentine’s Day.

“It’s one of the most vulnerable holidays of the year if you’re single,” Murphy said. “There’s so much social pressure. Here, I don’t feel judged.”

Managing a disability while attending college “is time consuming, and leaves very little time for socialization,” said Shannon Brown, who coordinates social events for the center. “This event gives our student population a nice place to come together, build community, and make new friends.”

Making new friends was exactly what Business student Masooma Mohammadi had in mind when she visited the center for the first time on Wednesday.

“Palentine’s Day sounded fun. It’s a cute name, so I thought I would stop in,” said Mohammadi, who was at a table working with art supplies alongside another student, Kyra Anderson.

Anderson, a Liberal Studies major who has attention-deficit disorder, said she has found community at the disability center.

“I come here often, just to relax,” she said. “I’ve met more people here with ADHD than I have in my entire life. It’s nice to know that I have a place I can go to talk to people who understand me, and just hang out.”

Mohammadi, who has struggled with depression, said she plans on returning to the center.

“I was hoping when I came here that I would meet someone today who I had something in common with, a new friend.

“And I did!” she said, smiling at Anderson.

Students chatted and mingled in a welcoming environment during Palentine's Day.
Palentine's Day, held on Valentine's Day in the Sac State Disability Cultural Center, offered students with disabilities a comfortable, welcoming environment to interact and mingle with others. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)


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About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy bird-watching from their perch next to the living-room window.

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